Vital Minds: Four Stories of Recovery


“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” ― R. Buckminster Fuller

Something is happening right now, on this planet. Can you feel it?

It’s like we are in the death throes of a way of living, a way of being that is no longer working, in politics, education, economics, and medicine. The cracks in the institutions we have always held sacred are growing and the structures are being toppled. But like a phoenix from this ash, a new story is emerging.

This story is about second chances. About radical healing. About the body, mind, and spirit as a web of near infinite complexity. About shedding labels. About freedom from ritualistic dependency on doctor priests and their sacramental prescriptions. The ambassadors of this new story are speaking out. We are brimming over with enthusiasm for what is possible. For the beauty, depth, and radiance that can emerge from the most painful wounds.

I used to practice conventional medicine, and when I was prescribing, I perceived only two options: scary disease (inborn chemical imbalance) or responsible medical management (pharmaceutical chemical correction). I never cured a single patient and I considered a good outcome to be a patient who was no longer in active crisis, but who had achieved a state of resumed “functionality.” In fact, built into our assessment methodology as psychiatrists is the GAF — the Global Assessment of Functioning. Because apparently that’s all someone with mental illness can ask for, right? Simply functioning, not living.

And, of course, now even that treatment expectation has been revealed by the escalating disability rates to be a direct consequence of the very treatment that claims to support functionality.

Now, it is my passionate belief that every person on earth has the capacity to transform their human experience. To shed diagnoses. To come into contact with their souls, find their gifts, and experience the mysterious magic of this human experience. Without medication.

What I have found is that tapering off of psychiatric medication has become the initiatory ritual of our time. We no longer take our young men out into the wilderness for a vision quest. We have lost our elders and are ever more susceptible to the tactics of a society that seeks to control its populace through fear. We have lost our compass, lost our way, and we have been lead to believe that it’s better to be safe than sorry — safe being the illusory promise of pharmaceutical medicine, sorry being the potential for your own mind and body to drive you straight to death if left to its own devices.

There is a way to leave this temple of fear and subservience, however. And it begins with your experience.

This is N of 1 medicine, where randomized trials, piles of curated medical papers and statistics are rendered secondary to your personal, individualized experience. Your experience can be cultivated through a deep commitment to self-care predicated on the essential belief that you can heal — that you have a second chapter to your life still in you.

I have found that, since I put down my prescription pad after reading Anatomy of an Epidemic (and healing myself from Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis), decades of medication injury, processed food, and toxic thinking can be undone in the space of one month.

This is how forgiving our bodyminds are. My patients have trashed themselves for decades, and after one month of dietary change, daily meditation, detox, and psychospiritual support, they are reborn.

But don’t take it from me.

Meet Rose. She spent 25 years on 5 medications, suicidal the entire time. She was bed-bound after her medication discontinuation and further injured by an antibiotic exposure before we met. She discusses the tools that she implemented and that we augmented to bring her to a place of expressing how much joy she feels, simply waking up and being alive today. Watch her here.

Meet Ali. My office was Ali’s last stop. She and her family were looking for residential facilities because her symptoms were so disabling, chronic, and unresponsive to conventional treatment. She had collected numerous diagnoses over her lifetime, including Eating Disorder, Premenstrual Dysphoria, Depression, Generalized Anxiety, and Bipolar Disorder. She made five real suicide attempts, had been hospitalized multiple times, and was delusionally agitated for several days around her period every month.

What unfolded in two months defies everything that I learned in my conventional training. We tapered her off of medication, and she was not only symptom-free, but reborn.

Ali’s case is pending publication in a peer-reviewed, indexed journal. Watch Ali here.

Meet Shauna. Shauna’s healing and redemptive recovery from years of disability, suicide attempts, and near homelessness makes clear one simple message: healing and recovering from mental illness and psychiatric medication injury are possible for anyone. Shauna was not a patient of mine, but she participated in my online program, Vital Mind Reset, which I created to cut out the middle man and put the tools of healing directly into the hands of individuals.

Learn about how she did this program on food stamps, why she thinks volunteering was a major element in her process, and how she now is med-free and has had the diagnosis of Bipolar scrubbed from her medical record. Also get ready to watch me cry beginning with the introduction, because Shauna’s experience was living proof of everything I always believed was possible. Watch her here.

Meet Stephanie. A physician who has been awakened by the truth about the body’s capacity to heal. Tapered off of medication, feeling vital, and revived through lifestyle changes, she will be paying this forward in her own pediatric practice. Watch Stephanie here.

These are only the women that we could get on camera! We are cataloging more reclamation narratives on my website, and my passion project has been the dissemination of these healing tools through my book A Mind of Your Own and our online program and community. No doctor required.

The power of one person healing is that they create the morphic resonance for others to then occupy. When it happens once, it becomes more likely to become a reality for another.

At a time when people are being euthanized for depression because they believe it to be a life sentence to mental illness and chemical management, it has never been more critical to spread the truth that healing is possible. Share the light of these stories and know that we are building a new model that makes the old one obsolete.



Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.


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    • Alex, can I please reach out to you to converse privately? You’ve put your heart energy out often here in these pages, and I feel a level of trust and understanding with you. I am very vulnerable and do not trust easily, but I need to trust someone and my heart feels you are trustworthy enough to take the risk.

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      • Sure, LavenderSage, I’d be happy to dialogue with you in private. I used to offer an alternate email address on here which I no longer have, so all I have is my main address which I don’t like to post publically. Perhaps you can email me a brief note through MIA and have Hana forward it, so I’ll have your email and can respond that way? Would that work?

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          • If you go to staff and click on staff picture, an email logo appears in the upper left hand corner. Hana Valle is the moderator, you can email her at [email protected] and ask her to forward your note to me containing your email address, and I’ll write you.

            Hana, I hope this is ok, it would seem the way to go.

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          • Alex- I did as you suggested and emailed Hana asking her to forward my info to you, but have not heard anything back. I, too, value my privacy, and don’t have any contact info that’s for public consumption I could just post here. But it has taken me quite awhile to take this step of reaching out to you, time to ride the seesaw of need vs. risk (heart-trust being the fulcrum it balances upon), and then once decided, time to gather my courage to actually express that need. And now that I’ve done so I’m eager-bordering-anxious to get on with the process and communicate directly with you.
            I’m wondering whether it would get a quicker response if I hit the “Report comment” button for this comment, just to get the attention of any MiA moderator with the ability to help me with this? They can reply to this comment and let me know to email my info to them, perhaps be on the lookout for it.

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          • I emailed Hana, too, and didn’t hear back, so I guess she’s off work these couple of days. I just now emailed Emmeline to see if she can help us out, pointing her to this dialogue and asking her to forward my email address to you. I imagine you’ll be hearing from her sooner than later. I do look forward to connecting, sounds like we’re on our way!

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  1. These are all amazing, uplifting stories. Yes, it appears there is recovery and healing after years of bad diet and ingesting toxic psychiatric drugs.
    What happens, however, when one has been traumatized and brain damaged by ECT? What hope does one have in this case since the brain injuries have caused permanent damage?
    Is there anything that can be done? Anyone with any suggestions, including Dr. Brogan?

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  2. Therapy and Recovery, I like best how it is explained in:

    Therapy and Recovery take your experience of injustice and turn that into a medial problem and a self-improvement project.

    Addiction and mental illness are inseparable from poverty and homelessness. And they are also inseparable from familial scapegoating, ie child abuse.

    So where I live, the Evangelical Christians always have out reaches. What they say amounts to, “Jesus has so much pity for you that he wants to give you a second chance. All he wants from you in return is that you admit that it was your fault for screwing up the first chance.”

    Therapy and Recovery do not give a survivor a biography, because what they amount to is getting the survivor to stop trying for vindication. When a survivor accepts Recovery, they have given up on restoring their place it the world.

    What we should have is LAWYERS:

    And we need to understand how the entire concept of mental health, and also addiction and recovery, are tied to eugenics:

    So when we encounter someone ( Psychiatrist, Psychotherapist, Recovery Movement, Life Coach ) who makes money by convincing them that they offer some non-redress approach which is the remedy to Psychiatry or Familial Abuses, we should be figuring out how to sue them for fraud. What they are pedaling is a denial system, straight up Uncle Tomism.


    Stop helping the Mental Health and Self-Improvement Industry. Your posts will not be censored.

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  3. The following story is my long-winded way of saying that if you have the solution, I have been searching, struggling and striving for a very long time. I need your help.

    I am so sick and tired of being a slave, and I don’t have much fight left. I am a slave to doctors who define who and what I am, with ultimate control over my civil rights. I am a slave to medications that I cannot stop taking without relying on a doctor who has a vested interest in the false premise that I am better off on them while they slowly poison my brain. I am a slave to poverty – psychiatry has cost me an easy $170,000 out-of-pock i two decades. I am a slave to stigma and social isolation, and its left me crippled on disability, which does not pay you enough to heal. I continue to go broke trying to afford decent medical care on a disability check.

    My story is so long and complicated – but some of it appeared on the MIA blog here, following the link below. At one point, I was poly-drugged on eight medications in two weeks. In three weeks I entered into the hospital and was removed from all of these drugs (including Klonopin and Cymbalta which I was on for the better part of twenty years – and suicidal much of the time).

    I have not had a suicidal thought since I survived sudden cessation fro SNRIs at the hands of the Medical University of SC in early 2014 – but the benzos? After three and one-half months of cerebral shock – I finally parted ways with M.U.S.C. and re-stabilized on 40 milligrams of Valium, but the same doctor kept me on 20 milligrams of zolipidem for more than a year. I successfully ceased talking the zolipidem in July under another doctor’s care- and have not touched one since. I do not know how or why but I came off it without increasing my Valium intake with few problems in about 90 days.

    The former doctor insisted that I stabilize for a year, before I tapered. When that year was up, my father was weeks away from a violent and delusional dementia-related death – the same week my doctor confirmed that the benzos and “non” benzos predisposed me to the demise. She knew my father was dying fro Alzheimer’s and she readily admitted that she knew the correlation between these drugs and dementia, but she never told me. I had to learn it second-hand and validate that correlation with her.

    She was not going to tell me unless I asked.

    After my father passed, I had an MRI done – and there was one negative finding – “global mild atrophy inconsistent with age.” The general practitioner I entrusted to interpret these results rendered them like a death sentence – a definite precursor to early onset dementia. She was ready to prescribe the meds my father was on. I ran screaming out of her office. A psycho-neurologist stated the finding was “too vague to clinical significance,” given that I showed no symptoms. My current psychiatrist called it “disconcerting ” but not a death sentence, since we don’t know what caused it.

    I know in my gut what caused it – a Harvard campus psychiatrist had me on seven concurrent prescriptions of Klonopin in the mid nineties. I asked if it was okay to drink and take these pills and he said yes in moderation. Its was not okay in moderation, and I am certain that the spiraled that followed and ended twelve years ago – doubled-whammied my brain. That explains why it literally shrank.

    In that state -at that time – concurrent prescriptions meant I could take as much as I wanted, until one day the campus pharmacist fussed at me. She filled the prescription, but she was mad. So I informed the campus psychologist. When she picked her jaw off the floor, she put me into the hospital right away. I was sent to the best teaching hospital in the world, I guess, but I was taken off the Klonopin with no taper and not a clue about long-term withdrawal – the creeping paranoia, the panic attacks, the wounded feelings – I chalked it up to culture shock. A polite southern boy trapped as a cultural outsider in the highest ivory tower in the world.

    But the damage was done. Leaving Harvard did not cure the symptoms. I had o idea what was happening to me and the only answers that western medicine provided was more pills and a worse diagnosis. This is where and when the cycle started – and despite 5-6 attempts to stop taking the benzos, following what my doctor in Atlanta always called the “rip the Band-Aid off approach” I was always “better off on them” I was told by countless shrinks because they always interpreted the withdrawal as “your underlying condition” returning – and typically the diagnoses got worse over time. According to my medical records at MUSC, I have five-six psychiatric diagnoses – including both unipolar and bipolar depression. But my favorite one is the “Personality Disorder, Unspecified” diagnosis I received when I became slightly agitated with the resident in charge of my care because he told me my symptoms were “neurologically impossible” and I as a baby whose bottle had been taken away.”

    I did not threaten the guy. I did not even use a bad word or call him a name.

    I was going through the hell of combined SNRI and benzo withdrawal.

    I have finally found an “integrated” and open-minded psychiatrist who accepted that I have developed my own treatment philosophy, constructed an entire lifestyle around brain health (nutrition, meditation, exercise, etc….) and he is willing to TOLERATE my goals to taper off these medications. But he does not take Medicare and its $185 an hour out of pocket. There is one “holistic” psychiatrist in town, but she does not take my insurance either. She wants $450 for an initial consultation, $175 fora hourly session and by the way she wants you to buy $300-month in nutritional supplements through her. I am not just a slave. I am trapped – there are just no better options.

    My current psychiatrist is a nice guy – and I do not question his intentions – but as they say the road to hell…. he still comes from the corrupt allopathic mindset. He still views me as defective and not the medications. We come to this amicable impasse that what he sees as the trajectory of neurological illness, I knew from my personal experience and my own research is the compounded, iatrogenic damage of benzos and other meds. In fact, he recently confided in me – and though its breach of medical etiquette – he was trying to assuage my fears – that he takes psychiatric medications himself. In fact, he became a psychiatrist because he had both good ad bad experiences as a patient.

    I recently tried to go to a different doctor in town. He diagnosed me bipolar in 20 minutes. So I chose the lesser of two evils and I currently pay $185 an hour out-of-pocket to see the doctor who does listen and is willing to support (but not encourage) my own treatment philosophy and goals. It has taken more than three years but I have whittled down – with a lot of setbacks – to 18 milligrams of Valium. My brain has proven SO sensitive over the years that going down one milligram every couple of week is a challenge. So back to square one…If you can help, I would love to hear or speak with you.

    I have been looking for – and practicing my own version – of this solution for years.

    But something is still not quite working.

    Thank you.

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    • I don’t have any answers for you, Robert, wish I did. But I couldn’t have the only response to your plea be a scam pitch (why do those keep popping up here?!) and just wanted to say stuff you already know, I’m sure: you are not alone, so many of us doing better but not doing okay enough. I feel you. Me too. And anybody who wants you to shell out $300/mo on supplements through them, that screams of exploitation of your vulnerable state and desire to heal, and I find that repugnant. I wish you healing, with plenty of discernment along the way, same wish I have for me.

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      • Shelling out $30/mo. for supplements is more like it, though that’s on the heavy side if you haven’t become chronic like me or my friend, Henry the Paranoid, who took about 15-20g of B3/day (I once saw him take 10 500mg niacin tablets in one gulp at a drinking fountain- yes, he knew he was a paranoid, but his bearing would greatly improve over time, while on the B3). The idea is to buy them in bulk or when “twofers” are offered as a special. Niacin, you buy at the pharmacy counter by the 1000’s. Remember, the idea is to take as little guff as possible.

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  4. Robert Pfaff,

    Brother, thank you for your post. You are not alone. The middle-class family exists to exploit and abuse children. The mental health system and the recovery movement exist to back it up.

    Since you have been touched by it, your life and your biography trashed, you should be entitled to redress. These Psychiatrists and Psychotherapists should be incarcerated.

    We the survivors, need to organize and start fighting back. There is no Recovery, that was always a non-sense idea. There is only justice and justice denied. As we organize and fight and vanquish foes, we regain social legitimacy.

    So we need to organize and build our own institutions and take legal and political action to obtain redress. Thank you for you clear thinking and for not supporting the concept of “Recovery”.


    Please Join, this is not a protected space for Psychiatrists, Psychotherapists and Life Coaches. And your posts will not be censored:

    Black Panthers at 50.

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  5. LavenderSage, I haven’t yet heard back form MIA nor have I heard from you, and since the spam posts are still active, it seems as though no one is around to help us with our request to connect with each other. I no longer publically post my address because when I was, I got all sorts of unwanted emails and all kinds of spam so I’ve stopped doing that. I’m also moving away from MIA for reasons having to do with letting go and moving forward. You actually just caught me, I thought the first post I made on this article was going to be my last on this website, then I saw your response, so I’m hanging in there until we can connect.

    Still, considering your post, I thought I’d go ahead and say here that after I came off the drugs and did all the healing work to support the withdrawal–which was all about energy, chakras, grounding, and clearing blocks (Chinese Medicine)–I had to, at the same time, consider how I was perceiving my reality. So I began to consider the values and beliefs I was raised with, and realized how much they just did not fit who I was. I had internalized my families value system–very middle class, social hierarchy, norms of society, all that crap–which put me in conflict with my own spirit, so that’s when I began to totally individuate from the “family voices.”

    What was causing me so much pain, which was uncovered when I got off the drugs and cleared my head a bit, was the inner conflict between these internalized beliefs of old vs. my true spirit, wanting to lead me to where I really desired to go, my true calling, as we all have a path to follow. When we don’t follow our true and natural path–which is programmed into our intuition I believe–because we are, somehow, stopping ourselves, we suffer because we are not following our true spirit nature, to be in affinity with ourselves. That is a core split, like playing tug-o-war with ourselves.

    So that was the start of the next phase of healing–in addition to the energy work–discerning and separating out internalized family energy and beliefs from my own true heart and spirit voice, my real desires. That set me free on a whole new level.

    After that, I learned all I could about Law of Attraction, and that really moved me way forward, quantum leaps. There are a lot of LOA teachers out there, some are better than others. I happen to really enjoy Esther Hicks’ teachings on LOA, she has hundreds of videos and clips from her seminars which I find fascinating and so relevant, a real game changer, whole new paradigm. Search Abraham-Hicks on YouTube, tons of stuff will come up to explore, on how it relates just every subject imaginable.

    At the end of it all, learning about Law of Attraction and other universal laws of energy is what got me past all of this, once and for all, because it guided me as to how we co-create our realities, so I felt more control over my life experience.

    I did my withdrawal from 9 drugs in 2001-2002, and by 2007 I was singing and acting on stage (which I’d never done before until then), thanks to the Chakra and energy work, and then studying law of attraction and applying that to my healing. I was extremely dedicated my healing, it was all I focused on during that time, and all of that work got me far (as well as staying as far away as I could from anything called “mental health services”).

    It took my a bit longer to consider myself completely well, and for that, I had to heal from all the gaslighting and mental abuse that took place alongside all of this, from the system. I found that to be much trickier and more subtle than the drug harm. The effects of gaslighting are devastating, really messes with one’s self-perception. Reminded me so much of what I went through as a kid, my family was the same way, all academic and competitive, whereas I had no such inclination.

    This allowed me to dig deep and release all the confusion and disorientation from having been chronically lied to, emotionally manipulated, stonewalled, and shamed for standing up for myself. Such is the double bind of our mainstream society. It’s lose/lose, no way to win in this. So that’s how I healed my core wounds.

    As I shifted all of these internal beliefs to align more with who I am naturally, as a spirit being having a human experience, I felt myself lighten up considerably, my thoughts changed to create a more positive perception of myself, and almost like magic, my environment changed. I attracted opportunities that allowed me to transition and that’s when I moved to a rural natural environment and found my true self, here. Pure transcendentalism, nature is beyond amazing in her healing support.

    These days, I’m moving further and further away from all this mental health stuff, mostly toward creating music and other community service endeavors, focusing on social healing. I find that the more I focused my attention on that which felt good and brought me uplift, the better I would feel. Sure enough, that’s what happened. So I continue in this vein, and I grow as a result.

    Overall, during healing, we tend to stare so much at our shadow, and I learned it is healing to go the other way–to stop staring at the shadows, and instead, look for the light. That creates a new inner landscape for us, based on light rather than shadow. This translates into what we manifest outside of us.

    I hope this has spoken to you, somehow, while we are waiting for MIA moderators to respond to our request. I felt compelled to offer at least something here, even though I don’t know your specific issues at present. Hope it helps!

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  6. Dr. Brogan, just refer your clients to my website. I’ll make sure that they get the representation they need.

    Now eventually we want to be suing parents. But getting people to sue their therapists is an easier way to start. And eventually we want people to understand that it is not just some therapy which is abusive. All therapy is based on turning problems back on the client. What is considered Recovery is simply getting the client to abandon all quests for justice.

    But at least we have a start, legal redress instead of therapy and recovery.

    And of course it makes no difference whether the abuse known as therapy is coming from a Psychiatrist, a Psychotherapist, a Life Coach, or a Recovery Program Leader. And it makes no difference what sorts of licenses and training that they do or don’t have.


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